Hamilton

Hamilton police chief will retire as of February 2021

Hamilton's police chief, Eric Girt, is retiring as of February 2021.

Eric Girt has been chief since 2016

Chief Eric Girt is retiring from Hamilton Police Service. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

Hamilton's police chief, Eric Girt, is retiring.

Girt said during a police services board meeting Thursday that he'll retire effective Feb. 7, 2021 from his post at the helm of the Hamilton Police Service (HPS).

"It has been an honour to serve with you," Girt said, thanking Hamilton police officers and civilian staff.

His priorities, he said, have been to have a "respectful, compassionate" police service. 

Mayor Fred Eisenberger, who is also board chair, lauded Girt for his work, particularly with youth. He also said Girt played an integral role in security during the 2015 Pan Am Games.

Hamilton Police Service board chair Coun. Lloyd Ferguson pins the chief's badge on Eric Girt in 2016. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

"We had a very talented, compassionate, caring individual leading this police service over the last five years," he said. "Thank you so much for the very difficult job of being police chief."

Coun. Tom Jackson, board member, said Girt is "localized. He's Hamilton based. The family has a long-standing history in our community.

"He understands the dynamics of our community and has his finger on the pulse of our citizenry."

Girt's time as chief has, like the chief before him, been headline-grabbing. 

Girt was appointed in May 2016 with a five-year contract after the retirement of Glenn De Caire, who is now McMaster University's director of parking and security services.

Girt, right, joined then-deputy chief Dan Kinsella to break ground on a new investigative services building in 2018. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

While De Caire came from the Toronto police service, Girt is a lifelong Hamiltonian, and earned a combined bachelor's degree in English and anthropology from McMaster.

He's been a Hamilton police officer for 35 years, including stints as a deputy chief, the commander of Division 2 and regional youth coordinator, says a biography on the service's website.

Girt, said then-board chair Lloyd Ferguson, brings a "softer style" to policing than De Caire. Girt has served on the boards of the Hamilton Community Foundation and the John Howard Society, and worked with the Special Olympics.

"I think what we want to do is sustain the development that's happening, the rejuvenation of Hamilton," Girt said when he was appointed. "This is a primary focus in terms of that delivery of public safety. We want people to feel safe in our community, and to come here and develop our community." 

Girt shakes hands with Indigenous Elder Allan Loft, along with Deputy Chief Frank Bergen, at a sunrise service in 2018. (Laura Clementson/CBC)

Girt's tenure, however, has attracted criticism. He's been at the helm during an increasing call for the defunding of police, which included an investigation into people painting "defund the police" in front of city hall. (No charges were laid.) 

He was also chief during the 2019 Pride in the Park festival, when demonstrators with far-right ties crashed the festival. They clashed with some LGBTQ attendees, including a group with ties to a local anarchist social space, and several people were injured. Police drew criticism for what some perceived as taking too long to respond, and Girt made comments on the radio that drew links to sodomy and sex in public washrooms.

Girt answers questions from the police services board last year. (Laura Howells/CBC)

Girt later apologized. He also apologized after an independent investigation by Toronto lawyer Scott Bergman showed police response as "inadequate," Bergman wrote. HPS is implementing his recommendations now.

He was also chief during a 2018 report that showed 70 per cent of the sexual assault cases investigators deemed "unfounded" actually weren't. 

Girt has also attended the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., and the police leadership program at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management.

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